A Start to Our Vacation - Mount Rainier

Our day on Friday didn't start so well, with us having to call a locksmith to remove the lock from our mountain bikes, as we had lost the keys to the lock. It didn't delay us too much, and we were off on our way south. Sadly, the delay in starting out led to a bit of a wait at the border of about 50 minutes. Not too bad, but longer than we've dealt with lately. 

After getting through the two Yahtzee game wait (a split of the two games), we headed south into Blaine for our first stop. I had ordered some things that we needed to pick up, and dealt with that fairly quickly. Then we were on the road, heading south on the I5. Our next stop was at REI in Bellingham, where a couple of more things I had ordered were waiting. Again, the stop was short and we were on or way. 

Sadly, after that things didn't go so well. The trip down the I405 was slow, with a couple of accidents really hampering our progress. We stopped for lunch and for a longer stop at a Costco. After that the trip was delayed significantly as the traffic on the 167 was brutal. We crawled through a series of towns and minor highways, before finally getting away from the traffic and onto more rural roads. All told the traffic probably cost us a good two hours. 

The main entrance to the park, where we were spending the next few days.

Once off the main highways, it got much better and much more scenic. Before long we were rolling Up to the gates of the park. Once inside the park, everything was much better. The drive had less traffic, and the scenery was amazing. I showed Justine the spots I camped at last time, and we made stops at a coupe of the cool waterfalls that I photographed the last time I was in the park. Being much later in the season, there was a lot less snow, and the river levels were a lot lower. 

We did a quick tour of Longmire, before heading up to Paradise. Sadly, the mountain was pretty socked in with clouds, and we couldn't see the peak. Regardless, the drive is pretty amazing, and as Justine had never seen it before, it was a fun drive. We got up to Paradise, and got checked in to the Paradise Inn for our next three days. 

Justine on a trail just above the Paradise Inn on Mount Rainier.

The Inn, is pretty amazing. Built in the 1920s, it's been a fixture at the top of the mountain almost as long as the park has been here. The lodge is built from massive old logs, and has two huge fireplaces at each end of the amazing common area. After getting checked in and settled, we went out for a short walk to see the area. 

The front entrance of the Rainier Inn.

Right off the main path above the visitor center, we came across a pair of deer that were browsing in the meadow. They were completely unafraid of people, and walked within 10-15 feet of us. The meadow was quite beautiful, with lots of wild flowers still in bloom. One of the main reasons I wanted to come up to Rainier this time of year was to see the wild flowers. I had been a little concerned that we were too late in the season (and we could tell that many of the flowers were past blooming), but it was encouraging to see quite a few still in full colour.

We were able to get within about 10 feet of the deer. Pretty crazy.

One of the deer we encountered, right near the Inn.

We walked a little ways up one of the paths, to get a sense for the hike we were planning to do in the morning. One of the trails was called the "Waterfall Trail", so we continued up it for a bit, and came across Myrtle Falls. I stopped to take a few pictures, then we continued on. We wandered the meadow for a little while, then headed back to the Inn for dinner. 

Myrtle Falls near the Paradise Inn on Mount Rainier.

 Some of the cool furniture in the lobby. It was nice we could take our wine from dinner with us.

Some of the cool furniture in the lobby. It was nice we could take our wine from dinner with us.

The main dining room was equally cool - all posts from huge trees, massive fireplaces and lots of ambiance. Dinner was good, and we were able to take our bottle of wine with us out to the common area to finish it off after dinner. 

The common area has these huge tables made from old logs, and we sat and played Yahtzee, while finishing our wine. At 8:45, one of the rangers did a presentation on the park that was really great. It was very informative, and told us a lot about the park we didn't know. 

After the presentation, we headed back outside and were pleased to discover that the clouds had all disappeared, and the night sky was full of stars.  We took that opportunity to go out and take some pictures of the night sky. Up at the top of Mount Rainier the normal light pollution is minimized, and for the first time in a long time we could see the Milky Way. We spent about and hour shooting the stars before it got a bit cold and we called it a night. It was an excellent end to the day, and our holiday was off to a good start. 

A panoramic view over Paradise Valley, from the road near the Paradise Inn.

A view of the Milky Way, from the road at Paradise on Mount Rainier.

After the presentation, we headed back outside and were pleased to discover that the clouds had all disappeared, and the night sky was full of stars.  We took that opportunity to go out and take some pictures of the night sky. Up at the top of Mount Rainier the normal light pollution is minimized, and for the first time in a long time we could see the Milky Way. We spent about and hour shooting the stars before it got a bit cold and we called it a night. It was an excellent end to the day, and our holiday was off to a good start. 

A slightly wider angle shot, where you can see a bit more of the stars.